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4 geeky activities to get your child interested in STEM

By Carrie Rogers-Whitehead, KSL.com Contributor  |  Posted May 31st, 2017 @ 5:30pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — We learn when we care.

And there's nothing quite like fandom culture to help kids care. Here are four simple and not-so-simple geeky STEM activities to inspire both you and your child to take learning to the next level:

Comic book creator apps

Help your child discover their inner creativity with comic book creator apps. If your child likes reading comics, they’ll probably like making them too. Nowadays, they can create original stories or animate their favorite ones using technology. The apps will allow your budding artist to draw, design and print their own comic books.

Pixton and ToonDo, two well-reviewed apps, allow kids to play with fully posable characters, dynamic panels, props and speech bubbles with intuitive click-n-drag motions.

Both apps are aimed at kids ages 12 and up, but Superhero Comic Book Maker by DuckDuckGoose is for the elementary-aged crowd.

LEDs on cosplay

Fans "cosplay" by creating costumes and dressing up as their favorite characters or original characters they've invented. Cosplay is a wonderful way to express creativity and demonstrate STEM skills.

A simple way to blend STEM and cosplay is by using LED lights. For a basic LED on a costume, you’ll need: a coin battery, sewing needles or tape and an LED of your favorite color.

To add an LED to a cosplay:

  • Determine the positive and negative end of your LED — or light-emitting diode — by looking at the two electrodes sticking out. The longer electrode is positive and the shorter is negative. Then, look for the plus and minus sign on your coin battery.
  • Connect the negative end of your electrode to the positive end of your coin battery and vice versa.
  • Decide where you want your cosplay to light up. You can add it on a fake sword, belt or breastplate.
  • Tape or sew the LED onto your costume. You may want to attach it so the battery can be removed and replaced, or situate the LED so one of the electrodes is not touching the battery. If the electrodes are constantly touching the battery and lighting up the bulb, the battery will die fairly quickly. If you want your light to last longer, you can use a 4.5-volt or 9-volt battery instead of a coin battery.

You can also use conductive thread to connect the electrodes or add a series of LED lights instead of just one.

Box robots

If you want to help your child take it old school while developing an interest in engineering, look no further than your common cardboard box. With just a box, duck tape, box cutters, scissors and imagination, you can help your child create their own wearable robot from their favorite book or movie.

Instructables, a website specializing in user-created do-it-yourself projects, has a compilation of robot costumes here to get you started with some basic designs.

You can test your engineering skills by making your human robot perform certain tasks including an obstacle course, jumping on one foot, crawling under a table, balancing and more. You’ll find out pretty quickly how to construct a well-designed bot by making it move.

Siblings can take turns being and creating the robot or participating in a robot-building competition.

3-D printing templates

If you are fortunate enough to have a 3-D printer, there are many free, geeky designs online. Instead of starting your own designs from scratch, utilize some of the templates available on sites like Thingiverse , Pinshape and Yeggi.

If you don't have a 3D printer, there is limited access available at libraries like the Salt Lake County Library, University of Utah's Marriott Library and Brigham Young University's Harold B. Lee Library. The files must be formatted as STL and VRML files to work on a 3-D printer.

Some popular geek designs include Star Wars, Dr. Who, Harry Potter, video game characters and more. If the finished design is a favorite character, it may inspire some reluctant students to explore 3-D printing.

What are your favorite geeky STEM activities? Share them in the comments!


Carrie Rogers-Whitehead

About the Author: Carrie Rogers-Whitehead

Carrie Rogers-Whitehead is the CEO and founder of Digital Respons-Ability. She is a TEDx speaker and instructor at Salt Lake Community College and regularly trains on subjects such as information science, STEM, communication and digital literacy. In addition, she is the co-creator of Wizarding Dayz.

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